Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mingling Thanksgiving and Mourning

A portion of a letter by Rev. Benjamin Morgan Palmer, esteemed professor at Columbia Seminary, South Carolina, and later pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of New Orleans, to a friend suffering grief because of the death of his father. This encouraging letter of sympathy was written October 9, 1856.

It would be superfluous to exhort any of you to patience and submission, for I doubt not you have already united in saying, 'The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.' While nature will have her pangs and wring her tribute of tears and grief, you have still so many materials of praise and song that you must mingle thanksgiving and mourning. His pure life, his unstained character, his long devotion to his Master's cause and Church, his pious counsels, and his fervent prayers, his faith and patience and hope—all meeting together in his dying moments; all these will be objects of memory to stay your sorrow and sustain you from despondency and gloom. If, too, the Church below has lost, the Church above has gained. It is only a transfer from one to the other, and the Church is not a loser, though we may miss him much.

The Life and Letters of Benjamin Morgan Palmer, by Thomas Cary Johnson, first published in 1906, printed by the Banner of Truth Trust, 1987, p. 167.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Sermon Instead of a Letter

A selection from a letter by Rev. Robert L. Dabney to his older brother, Charles William Dabney. The letter is evangelistic. He longed to see his brother, a distinguished lawyer, come to an open profession of Christ. After writing at length about depravity and the necessity of the new birth, Dabney concluded with an earnest appeal. The letter was written December 23, 1855.

You will say I send you a sermon instead of a letter. Well, I will add one more feature of resemblance; and as the preachers follow their sermons with a prayer for the divine blessing, after I have folded up this lame and halting composition, and directed it to you, I will kneel down, and pray to "the God who seeth in secret," to guide you into his truth, to show you the way of salvation, and place you in it, to bless your little ones and make them his children, and to give the sweetest and best influences of his grace to my dear sister; and may the Lord forgive me that I, so poor and beggarly a sinner, should try to unfold the riches of his grace to one less guilty than myself.

The Life and Letters of Robert Lewis Dabney, by Thomas Cary Johnson, first published in 1903, reprinted by the Banner of Truth Trust, 1977, pp. 184-85.

Friday, June 24, 2011

In My Old Age

A selection from a letter by Rev. Henry Venn, a minister in the Church of England, to an acquaintance, Mrs. Braiser, who had lost an infant in death. He gave reasons why "our dear children, taken away almost as soon as we see them, are safe in the hands of their merciful Creator and Redeemer." He also spoke of his trials in old age but of the nearness to God in meditation and prayer. The letter was written March 27, 1781.

My health is very much restored; yet I am forced, I think, to pay dearly for it. I am obliged to be on horseback every day, and cannot study and apply as my heart delights to do. I began to make trial of preaching four times one week; but I smarted for it for more than a fortnight; so that I must be content with doing very little indeed in my old age. Oh that I may enjoy more meditation and prayer, and communion with God, till I am with Him, whose Name is most glorious in my eyes, and His service the highest honor… Oh for an overcoming faith, to possess the inheritance of the saints in light, by hope, before we are translated to it!

Letters of Henry Venn, by John Venn, first published in 1835, republished by the Banner of Truth, 1993, pp. 323-34.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Free Ransom Given for Sold Souls

A morsel of a letter by Samuel Rutherford. It was written to a friend, Alexander Gordon, who promoted and supported the Presbyterian cause in Scotland. No letters ever written by mortal man are so full of Christ as Rutherford's. Spurgeon thought them to be the nearest thing to inspiration than any writings of mere men. This letter is as always, full of Christ. It was written in 1637.

Sinners can do nothing but make wounds, that Christ may heal them; and make debts, that He may pay them, and make falls, that He may raise them; and make deaths, that He may quicken them; and spin out and dig hells for themselves, that he may ransom them. Now, I will bless the Lord that ever there was such a thing as the free grace of God, and a free ransom given for sold souls; only, alas! guiltiness maketh me ashamed to apply to Christ, and to think it pride in me to put out my unclean and withered hand to such a Saviour. But it is neither shame nor pride for a drowning man to swim to a rock, nor for a shipbroken soul to run himself ashore upon Christ.

Letters of Samuel Rutherford: With a Sketch of his Life and Biographical Notices of His Correspondents, by the Rev. Andrew A. Bonar, first published in 1664, reprinted by the Banner of Truth Trust, 1984, Letter # CCXVII, pp. 425-26.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Peace With God

A portion of a letter from Thomas Charles to a friend, Mr. John Walker. Napoleon Bonaparte was the new Emperor of France and Britain feared a French invasion. Charles wrote to his friend, "I pray that the time may speedily arrive, when they shall learn war no more." He then spoke wonderfully of the peace that Christians have with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. The letter was written January 11, 1805.

Peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ is to us sinners a blessing, which in value, and in its happy efforts, passeth all understanding. Jesus is our peace – our peace-purchaser, our peace-maker, our peace-ratifier, and our peace-preserver forever. He himself is everything to us.

Thomas Charles’ Spiritual Counsels: Selected from his Letters and Papers, by Edward Morgan, first published in 1836, reprinted by the Banner of Truth, 1993, p. 326.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pedocommunion - The Bible Knows No Such Custom

A selection from a letter by Joseph Kinghorn, pastor of St. Mary's Baptist Church, Norwich, England, to his parents, with whom he had extensive correspondence. He asked his parents a series of penetrating questions about a pedobaptist's proposal to bring infants to the Lord's Table, that are relevant for the 21st Century. Some today, who baptize infants, also receive them for communion. Thankfully, the PCA recently took a strong stand against pedocommunion. Kinghorn speaks to this matter as it relates to the baptism of children. The letter was written April 2, 1792.

One of our Independents, Mr. Newton [not John Newton], has publicly proposed to his people to bring all their children to the Lord's Supper, as baptized persons, thinking they have as much right to one ordinance as to another. Now this is consistent.

But does it not make the absurdity of infant baptism appear greater? Can those have any right to church privileges, who cannot be supposed to make a credible profession of religion? Is not the tendency of this practice contrary to that inquiry and sober decision which ought to distinguish a man's actions, when he takes a part as a professor of Christianity? Is he who has always been in the church, he knows not why or when, likely to make, or has he the opportunity of making, his religious conduct so much his own, as if he had first believed, and then acted upon that belief? Is not this the strongest chain ever yet forged to connect the church and the world together, and to make the connection so intimate as to destroy the very essence of a Christian church? Is it not contrary to the tenor of the New Testament, where an attention to the Lord's Supper is described as not only the effect of professed faith, but also consequent on that examination which must necessarily be personal? And is not the best thing we can say of it, this—the Bible knows no such custom?

The Life and Works of Joseph Kinghorn, by Martin Hood Wilkin, reprinted by Particular Baptist Press, 1995, p. 208.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Truth is the Object of Your Inquiry

A selection from a letter by John Newton to Thomas Scott. Both men were neighbors and ministers in the Anglican Church but Scott was unconverted. He entered the ministry for a comfortable career, not because he knew Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and wished to proclaim the gospel. The two began a correspondence that eventually led to Scott's conversion. In this letter, Newton commented on some objections that Scott had set forth. The letter was written August 11, 1775.

Your objections neither displease nor weary me. While truth is the object of your inquiry, the more freedom you use with me the better. Nor do they surprise me; for I have formerly made the like objections myself. I have stood upon your ground, and I continue to hope you will one day stand upon mine. As I have told you more than once, I do not mean to dictate to you, or to wish you to receive anything upon my ipse dixit [because I said it]; but, in the simplicity of friendship, I will give you my thoughts from time to time upon the points you propose, and leave the event to the divine blessing.

Letters of John Newton: with Biographical Sketches and Notes by Josiah Bull, first published in 1869, republished by the Banner of Truth, 2007, p. 253.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Listen and Obey

A portion of a letter from Rev. William Still to his congregation. This Presbyterian pastor of a church in Scotland, wrote a pastoral letter to his congregation every month. His letters are filled with sound doctrine and advice. Someone described his letters as, "sometimes stirring, or provocative, sometimes written with joy, sometimes with a deep anxiety for others." In this letter, Rev. Still touches on things simple that are difficult to accept. The letter was written in the month of June, 1970.

It is the simplest things that are most difficult to understand and accept, and one of those which seems in my experience to have been most difficult for people to understand and accept has been the fact that the Lord demands His servants, each and every one of them, to listen to Him only and obey His will implicitly, irrespective of what it costs.

The Letters of William Still, The Banner of Truth, 1984, pp. 108-09.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bodily Afflictions

A selection from a letter by Rev. J. C. Philpot, to a dear friend, Thomas Clowes, who was very sick and would be dead and in glory in two months time. Mr. Philpot encouraged his friend to overcome any doubts brought about by unbelief and rest in the Lord for strength. Philpot himself was feeling very poorly and shared his own experience. The letter was written December 17, 1866.

I know from experience with what a heavy weight bodily afflictions press, not only upon our mortal tabernacle, but upon our soul, and how depressing they are to the mind and spirits. I can, therefore, feelingly sympathise with you in the painful trial, and indeed all the more, as just now passing through it myself. But all we can say is, "It is from the Lord, and He must and will deal with us as seemeth good in His sight." You have had for many years a good measure of health and strength, and though rarely free from your stomach affection, yet you have been spared to a good age [78]. You cannot expect to have now that health and strength which you had in younger days, and it will be your wisdom and mercy to bow down before the will of God, and submit with patient resignation to the strokes of His afflicting rod. He had often in times past blessed, relieved, and comforted your soul, and though through the power of unbelief you may at times call in question all He has done for you and in you, yet all your doubts and fears do not affect the reality of His work nor the exceeding riches of His superabounding grace.

Letters and Memoir of Joseph Charles Philpot, first published in 1871, reprinted by Baker Book House, 1981, p.451.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Beautiful World Ravaged by War

A portion of a letter written by Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate army, to his wife, Mary. He comments on the beautiful countryside of Culpeper, Virginia, which had been ravaged by war. He laments the degradation that man had brought to God's creation. The letter was written June 9, 1863. The Battle of Gettysburg would commence in four weeks time.

The country here looks very green and pretty notwithstanding the ravages of war. What a beautiful world God in His loving kindness to His creatures has given us. What a shame that man endowed with reason and a knowledge of right should mar His gifts. May He soon change the hearts of men, shew them their sins and enable them to repent and be forgiven.

The Wartime Papers of Robert E. Lee, edited by Clifford Dowdey, The Da Capo Press, 1961, document #466, p. 507.

Back Online

Since the tornados that ripped through Alabama on April 27, I have been without my desktop computer, until yesterday. But I am finally back online and hope to be posting bits from letters again.